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how best to compost everything at once?  RSS feed

 
ronan Watters
Posts: 15
Location: Ireland
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Hi David

I have a about a quater of a acre covered in long grass with the likes of common and medow vetch mixed in as well as some other wild flowers. There is about a year and a haft growth there, since I have it. Before that there where ponies on it for a few months and before that it would have been kept as lawn. I will be wanting to expand my garden into this area next year and push other parts more in the direction of wildflower meadow habitat. So this Autumn I am going to cut this long grass back, it's quite matted underneath.

So how best to compost all this material at once. There are lots of seeds in it and it bares closer resemblence to hay rather then lawn. Some of it has dried out but there will still be plenty of wet green high nitrogen content material as well. Other material I have onsite is a little over a cubic meter of fairely well rotted compost made up of kitchen scraps and garden waste. Plenty of comfrey, woodshavings mixed with chicken poop from the chicken coop (only 2 chickens) At this point in my sites development and in the Irish climate I am going to have more material on the green side of things.

To balance that, I was thinking of buying in some straw bales or getting more wood shavings to boust the carbon side of things. Which do you think will give me the best outcome in terms of finish product and help getting the pile hot enough to try and kill some of thoes seeds.

thanks
ronan
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 2990
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
243
chicken dog forest garden hugelkultur hunting toxin-ectomy
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I'd chop it all down and pile it into either one long heap or several heaps. Keeping them around the three or four foot height they will form nice heaps.
If you prefer tidy heaps then you can build 3-4 foot square bins (I like to use pallets for this, tied together instead of screwed or nailed or bolted). This size will hold a nice amount which will allow heat up.
It seems you have a good supply of browns (dried hay type grasses) and greens (the not dried hay/ grasses). The other materials are good too.
I like to build a heap in layers when I can, it allows me to determine where the heat up will start and I use a long stem thermometer to check the build up of heat.
I don't turn a heap until it starts to cool down (a ten to fifteen degree drop is my indicator temp). Then I turn and if they are available at the time, I add more compostable stuff to the center for another heat cycle.
I check the bottom once the heat process is complete for signs of being finished compost. When I find the earthworms working away, I know it is getting close to ready to use.
I have never found earthworms in a heating pile except at the extreme fringes, but that is just observations of my heaps.
I also use composting to build growing mounds (hugel) I find the composting process helps the wood decay nicely.

I am all for making any additions to compost heaps, just do it either at the beginning or at the time you make the turn of the heap.
I have even added old, natural fiber carpet to heaps, it just means the heap will take a bit longer to decompose everything but then I sift finished heaps and just return all the material not compost back to a new heap.
If a heap looses heat before it is finished, I add in spent coffee grounds and that usually gets it headed back to heating rather quickly.

 
David Good
gardener
Posts: 522
Location: Equatorial tropics
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books forest garden
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Good thoughts, Bryant.

@Ronan

I've found that no matter how I try to get a compost pile hot enough to destroy seeds... it never happens completely. Some of my best tomatoes and squash have been compost pile volunteers.

I don't know that it would be worth bothering to cut and gather everything into piles. Here's a thought for you: why not use the "occultation" method of cutting an area down to the ground, then spreading a semipermeable tarp over the area that will let moisture through but not sunlight. This will allow everything beneath to rot while encouraging germination of weed seeds. It leaves quite beautiful bare compost-rich ground beneath after a year or so. Martin Crawford has spread tarps across the soil for food forest expansion projects.

Another idea is to sheet mulch the area you wish to garden upon, building your compost right in place.
 
Rebecca Norman
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Posts: 1274
Location: Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5
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Straw is wonderful stuff and if clean, breaks down wonderfully. But there have been horror stories lately, of people who brought in straw that was, or even manure from animals that ate hay or grass that was, treated with certain herbicides. Some of the new herbicides survive digestion through an animal or composting, and can still wreak havoc on your garden of broadleafed plants. So maybe if you have to bring in brown carboanceous materials, sawdust, wood shavings ro chips, or autumn leaves from people's gardens would be safer than straw.
 
David Good
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Location: Equatorial tropics
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Rebecca,

You're very right on the herbicides. I posted this link from a friend's garden in another thread:

http://www.greenbasket.me/2015/08/08/my-garden-is-poisoned/

I've been hit with the nasty stuff and many of my readers have as well.
 
Rose Pinder
Posts: 410
Location: Otago, New Zealand
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I've made amazing compost from predominantly grass, put into berm-like piles maybe 3/4 metre high. No carbon material added, there seems to be enough in the grass as it dies and whatever else is in that batch of weeding. That was couch, and included root, so I would never use it back in the garden, but it was a wonderful way to deal with the large amount of material and I just left it in areas where it didn't matter (boundary lines, under trees etc). It did grow a bit of grass again, but not as much as I would have thought, and with a bit of experimenting it could probably be made into safer compost for more targeted use (still wouldn't risk it in the vege patch though).
 
David Good
gardener
Posts: 522
Location: Equatorial tropics
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books forest garden
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Yep.
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 2990
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
243
chicken dog forest garden hugelkultur hunting toxin-ectomy
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With all the wonderful things mycoremediation can clean up, I've started an experiment using mushroom inoculation to see if this will work for turning contaminated grasses, compost, and other vegetative matter into usable, poison free compost.

I will report the final results and give the break down of month by month reductions once the trials are finished
At that time I will also give the list of every poison I've found in the tested materials.

It is turning into quite a list as I do the analysis of:
bagged compost from a "Big Chain" store
composted cow manure from the same "Big Chain" store
composted manure (did not specify on packaging what animals the manure came from) from our local farm supply store
Baccto (brand name) potting soil
Bulk potting soil from the nursery we buy fruit trees from (not advertised as Organic) *the initial testing showed very little pesticide and herbicide residues
Bermuda hay purchased locally from a farm store
straw purchased locally from a farm store
"Organic" wheat & oat straw and pasture hay purchased locally direct from a farmer

Some of these products (Bermuda hay, Organic straw and hay and the Baccto brand potting soil) are ones we are currently using,
some of them are products we would perhaps use if we knew for sure they are "poison" free. (So far we have been lucky with our choices, very little contamination was found and that was easily remediated by mycillium inoculation)

The Baccto is used for potato growing and straw bale infusion, testing showed it to contain no herbicide or pesticide residues once it was remediated and ready for planting. (My standard practice for any commercially produced soil type item)
Remediation included composting by hot method composting utilizing spent coffee grounds and fresh grass cuttings.
Then it was inoculated with turkey tail and lions mane suspensions, left to sit for one month prior to planting.
chemical analysis (GC/FID) showed that no pesticide or herbicide residues persisted.



 
David Good
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Location: Equatorial tropics
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That's a great project. I'm assuming you have access to a lab?
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 2990
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
243
chicken dog forest garden hugelkultur hunting toxin-ectomy
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I have my own lab. I also have friends that own commercial labs ( some of my equipment (the Gas Chromatograph with Flame Ionization Detection) came from them upgrading to newer, computer controlled equipment ). Being a Chemist/ biologist has some perks.
 
David Good
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Posts: 522
Location: Equatorial tropics
30
books forest garden
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Excellent. Have you tested for Aminopyralid contamination before? Apparently the cost for a true lab test runs at about $300, so we've had to simply use rough testing via planting out susceptible seedlings and noting their progress.

If there was someone laboratory testing manure it would likely be a profitable gig.
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 2990
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
243
chicken dog forest garden hugelkultur hunting toxin-ectomy
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I have not tested for aminopyralid as yet. Some of the necessary solvents require me to go through my commercial lab friends to acquire and they won't make any special orders for me.
So, I give them a list of items I can not legally purchase direct (I'm not an approved Lab) and then I get those items when their orders come in.

Occasionally I do run out of funds too. But I am working up some test methods that will be less expensive to run.
 
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